North Star Spirits Series 5, Regions 5, Bottles 5

Once a year, two of our Mumbai whisky groups come together to celebrate our mutual passion for a fine dram. This time, I selected the whiskies – ordered online and brought in by another member for our sampling pleasure. I was inspired by an earlier introduction to North Star Spirits and honed in on their series 5, tending towards the more affordable options available with a nice cross-section from different regions.

While the Whisky Ladies sponsored the whiskies, the gents hosted our evening in a gorgeous South Mumbai home with a most civilized sit down tasting followed by a brilliantly paired dinner. To put it mildly, the bar was set high!

And did the whiskies deliver? Read on to discover…

Our 5 Region North Star Spirits cask strength quintet from Cask Series 005 included:

Each was distinctive, unique and completely worth trying!

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North Star’s Caol Ila 12 year (2006/2018) 54.6%

Our final North Star Series 5 whisky was from the Islay region with a Caol Ila whisky. While it was the last, it was an entirely appropriate tasting order with this peaty robust dram coming after some lighter, flirtatious whiskies.

Here is what we discovered with the North Star Cask Series 005 Caol Ila…

Caol Ila 12 year (April 2006/May 2018) 54.6%

  • Nose – Hello peat! Sweaty, yheasty, medicinal… quite ‘wintry’, pine nuts, spirit of “peat fun”, some salt, kept evolving with the peat much less pronounced, giving way to other aromas, green asparagus, young potato starch, burnt maple bacon, sweet citrus, lightly smoky sweet grass, burnt sugar, sour cherry
  • Palate – Proper peat, some spice and everything nice. Crêpe Suzette with cherry liquor flambé, perhaps with a touch of citrus too
  • Finish – Green chilli and wasabi, sweet grapes

For those of a peatier persuasion, quite enjoyed this one. The bottle shared a few more details – noting the Caol Ila was bottled from a refill hogshead, un-chill filtered and natural colour.

As for what Iain Croucher had to say about it in his North Star’s tasting notes?

  • Nose: An Oligarch’s humidor… a big dusty one
  • Palate: A peated Sherbet Lemon, doubled-dunted with a peated Soor Ploom
  • Finish: Reminds me of well-seasoned hardwood burning near a new carpet… all subjective of course

Now I must share, we had the most hilarious response and commentary on this one – thoroughly enjoying the reading of the tasting notes… including having to look up what exactly is a “Soor Ploom.”

In case you are curious, a “Soor Ploom” according to Wikipedia is

a sharp flavoured, round, green boiled sweet originally associated with GalashielsScotland.

A “childhood favourite,”[3] they are pale green and “slightly acid in flavour”.[2]

Overall it was terrific having a chance to try such distinctive drams – well worth exploring.

For those curious about cost, this whisky was purchased online in July 2018 from Master of Malt for £76.36 / USD 100 / INR 7,215 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Or check out the Original Group’s North Star Discovery:

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North Star’s Orkney 12 year (2006/2018) 57.8%

Our 5 region tour of North Star’s series 5 continued with a whisky from the Islands.

(www.tripfolk.com)
http://www.tripfolk.com

This time our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai guest reviewer is Shruti Sutwala… 

A marketer by profession, Shruti brings her passion to travel across through her travel blog MeWanderlost. She divides time between creating brands, travelling to distant corners of the world & inspiring many to experience the world. 

Given that Shruti travels extensively (plus has a partner who shares her whisky explorations), she has blessed us with equally adventurous  whiskies from AustraliaBhutan, FranceIceland, Japan and US.

Here is what she has to say about the North Star Cask Series 005 Islands offering…

North Star Orkney 12 year (March 2006/May 2018) 57.8% is a great example of the trend of “secret bottling” by an independent bottler.

It’s secret because all we know about it is that it comes from Orkney and that it’s bottled from a refilled bourbon hogshead. Well, the Orkney is so small that the secret is really not a big one, it has to be one of the two big ones on the island!

It’s rare because independent bottling is all about small batch production – we tasted the Cask Series 005, 1 of 362 bottles, and yes, the same one will not be available in the market anymore.

And of course its experimental if the official tasting notes are any indication. Here it goes – on the palate it’s supposed to be ‘Melted Normandy salted butter poured over popcorn’ & on the finish Clover-honey on yer toast”. That’s experimental for sure!

  • Nose: The nose definitely connects to the island origin of this dram – it has strong sea salt & sea weed notes followed with some fruitiness. It feels quite young in the beginning, however develops subtle smokiness & butter notes, a perfect invitation to sip it along.
  • Palate: The peat on the nose doesn’t disappoint as you sip it along as it develops a nice caramel toffee sweetness. What stood out for me was a nice buttery coating on my palate which reminded me of the butter whisky I had in Scotland. Notes of burnt caramel, pipe tobacco, vanilla & a touch of spice with the subtle smokiness is just lovely!
  • Finish: After the mélange of notes on the palate, the finish was a little flat for me. Some comments around the table were “flat ginger ale” and “bitter”.

Adding a few drops of water made it more approachable for a few, however for me it lost the nice chewy and buttery character with the water.

Summing it up, it’s a solid dram which is nicely matured & balanced & at the same time not so serious. With the Orkney, the bottlers have clearly made a statement that whisky can be fun & experimental, yet well rounded. It would be a great addition to any collection, pity, there are so few of them in the market. A clear vote winner, this one was polished off in the post tasting session!

For those curious about cost, this whisky was purchased online in July 2018 from Master of Malt for £53.76 / USD 70 / INR 5,080 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Original Group’s North Star Discovery

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North Star’s Macduff 11 year (2006/2018) 55.2%

From the Highland region, our next North Star Series 5 exploring 5 regions in Scotland was from the Mac Duff distillery, best known for their Glen Deveron brand.

Our guest reviewer Rekha Sharma has been part of the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai from the start.

Having lived a fairly nomadic existence since a young age, Rekha gained over two decades of varied corporate & entrepreneurial experience.

From cable media industry in Hongkong with Disney Challen then Turner Networks (CNN), she then moved to New York where she founded & managed a retail business in Manhattan, combining an Asian antique store with an art gallery & a cafe/bar.

Now living in India, Rekha manages a serviced apartments business in Bombay,  being a part of a rapidly changing economic & social landscape that is India today.

Above all, Rekha enjoys the arts, cooking, interior design, travelling & good whiskey!

Here is what she has to say…

Macduff 11 year (Nov 2006/May 2018) 55.2%

  • Nose – Dish water soap, very light, flowers, flirting with us by running away then gently re-appearing, red delicious apple, balsa wood and some lovely ripe bananas
  • Palate – Peach, apricots, metallic, almost eggy, liquorice
  • Finish – Bitter walnut, big red chewing gum
  • Water – Much better! Really brings out more with this one and gave it a somewhat sweet, creamy finish

It was a friendly easy drinking dram and hard to imagine it was cask strength!

The North Star Macduff was bottled from a refill bourbon hogshead, un-chill filtered, natural colour with only 240  bottles.

North Star’s tasting notes:

  • Nose: Red apple & that smell you get when rain hits hot tar macadam
  • Palate: Instantly creamy & sweet, like my mum’s custard
  • Finish: The crispy topping on a creme brûlée 

This whisky was purchased online from Master of Malt in August 2018 for £53.76 / USD 70 / INR 5,080 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Original Group’s North Star Discovery:

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

North Star’s Campbeltown 4 year (2014/2018) 57%

Next in our North Star Series 005 quintet was a whisky from Campbeltown, which was reviewed by fellow Canadian Paula McGlynn.

Paula McGlynn is a CEO and Founding Director of Gulbadan Talkies and Bharatiya Digital Party (BhaDiPa). BhaDiPa is the pioneer of Marathi digital content, starting with its hit series “Casting Couch with Amey & Nipun” in 2016, and recently revived the Marathi Stand-Up comedy scene, now managing over 15 comic artists. BhaDiPa now has 3 channels under it’s brand, including Bha2Pa (Travel) and Vishay Khol (Politics and Infotainment). BhaDiPa recently received the Zee Talkies Marathi Comedy award for “Best Web Series”, and currently has over 80 million views and over 800K subscribers.

Entrepreneur, producer, actress, script writer… Paula will track down a new whisky experiment from Canada or the US, take an hour off from a film shoot in Goa to pop over to Paul John distillery for a tour (plus collect a coveted bottle of Peated) or drop by WhiskyLive when in South Africa… just because… whisky!

You can also check out her #daarudiscoveries on Instagram at Dev_Paula

Here is what Paula has to say about the Campbeltown…

North Star Series 005 – Campbeltown, 4 yrs, 57.4%
  • Blended Malt (blend of 2 casks) – Distillery Unknown
  • Bottled from a refill bourbon hogshead, un-chill filtered, natural colour.
  • Item no longer available for purchase

The second in an impressive-looking line up of North Star whiskies was a bit of a surprise – a 4 year old blend, cask-strength bottle (uh-oh) 57.4%!

The Campbeltown immediately drew a few raised eyebrows, and when assigning review-duties to the whisky ladies Carissa warned me to be ‘gentle’ considering its youth.

Upon opening, the first few whiffs led to a few remarks around the table about nail varnish and alcohol fumes… reaffirming our concern that this whisky needed some more time with the wood before bottling.

However, much to everyone’s surprise there started to appear notes of honeycomb, cream, vanilla, and those small, sweet and tart mandarin oranges!

Upon first sip, we were all pleasantly surprised to discover a delightfully light and fruity palate echoing the nose – honey, oranges, ginger, and an orange-maple liqueur quality.

Ending with a mid-length finish (again, a nice surprise), we drew further floral notes of lavender, aromatic bitters, salt, and some lingering orange sweetness.

After sampling a few more whiskies, we returned to this one to find the nose had shifted to a delicious butterscotch, while the palate remained much the same as before.

With a few drops of water, it brought out a lot more hard spices like cloves and ginger, and lost some of the more delicate floral notes. Still, not a bad trade-off depending on your mood!

Campbeltown 4 year (Apr 2014/May 2018) 57%

  • Nose: sweet mandarin orange, honeycomb, floral, cream, vanilla, and sprite! (later butterscotch)
  • Palate: honey, oranges, spice, ginger, orange-maple liqueur
  • Finish: mid-long, bitters, lavender, light sugar-water sweetness, salt, and some lingering orange flavour

The official tasting notes remark on something most of us had never tried… ‘oddfellows aromatic sweeties.’ I did a quick Google and turned up an image of some chalky-looking sweets of mixed colors… I felt it must have been somewhat accurate as mixed fruit, floral, and citrus flavors coming together in a heady-sweet mix from being mixed around in a paper bag. (the image source was named Scottish Retro Sweets)

I really really loved this whisky, not just because it was unique to find such a light summery orange element in a whisky, but the pure surprise element of this depth and complexity coming from a 4-year old whisky. It’s like the underdog story, distilled and bottled… everyone loves it!

North Star’s official tasting notes:

  • Nose: Lemon citrus & cut-grass. Oddfellows aromatic sweeties
  • Palate: Gingerbread & a lovely clementine
  • Finish: Super summer fruit with a touch of sea salt

Carissa asked the folks at North Star for more insight and this is what Ciara Hepburn had to say:

The Campbeltown in Series 005 was a blended malt, and unfortunately they do not give us information as to what the whisky is made up of. I love bringing this bottle to my tastings as there is usually a few dinosaurs in the room that cannot believe this is only a 4 year old!

We couldn’t agree more! It was a hit and great reminder that terrific whisky can be crafted with just a few years.

For those curious what we paid (before it disappeared from online shelves!), this whisky was purchased from Master of Malt in August 2018 for £37.40 / USD 50 / INR 3,600 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Original Group’s North Star Discovery:

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

North Star’s Glentauchers 11 year (2007/2018) 58.9%

From the Speyside region, we picked the gentler Glautachers as our first selection for our North Star Series 5 evening with our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai guest reviewer Nikoulina Berg

Photo: Team Table

Niko knows her stuff. Experienced in the F&B industry with a career that has spanned Germany, US, Spain, China, Singapore and now India, Niko has a certain flare for food and fine spirit and wines.

Currently based in Mumbai, Niko went from heading operations at The Table and Le Pain Quotidien, she went fully independent in 2018 to bring her expertise to advise existing and new hospitality companies on everything from guest experience, IT, operational excellence, entire concept creation to execution. More recently in December 2018, she launched ‘Sorrentina’, a classic Italian all-day dining restaurant and India’s largest gourmet grocer’s ‘Foodhall’ very first restaurant in Santacruz, Mumbai.

With the Whisky Ladies, Niko has shared Bavarian whisky (Slyrs), several Japanese whiskies (AkashiMars IwaiNikka Grain, Super Nikka) and from La Maison du Whisky That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s Glentaucher’s 20 year.

So what did she think of North Star’s 11 year Glentauchers by comparison?

Glentauchers 11 year (April 2007/May 2018) 58.9%

  • Color: light golden 
  • Nose: lots of fruit! then after a couple of minutes of letting it breathe notes of sherry, vanilla, smokey, a bit like s’mores, peaches, canned pear, minty fresh fumes
  • Palate: salty dark licorice, very strong, later coats your tongue with an oddly taste if boiled milk or maybe a version of dulce de leche
  • Finish: very salty, keeps burning on your tongue – medium finish. For some of the ladies a harsh burn. Later anise seed, liquorice, coating of sherry  
  • Water: very different characteristics with water – soil, vegetale, not the grassy type though, less burn. If don’t add water but rather have a sip of water in between – brings out a burnt caramel taste 
  • Overall: It’s an absolutely beautiful whisky and definitely one of my favourites from the series we tasted! 

I prefer it without water but it needs some time to unfold fully. 

After the Glentaucher’s 20 YO from ‘The Boutique-y’ I am starting to see a pattern with my notes and ratings of Glentauchers drams!

If you can get your hands on this – get it while you can! Highly recommended!

North Star Spirit’s shares it was matured in a refill bourbon hogshead, finished in a PX Sherry, un-chill filtered, natural colour… and have this to say:

  • Nose: My gran’s syrup sponge pudding
  • Palate: Thick cream, condensed milk just before the tablet sets
  • Finish: Touch of aniseed with a delicate sherry coating

For those curious about cost, this whisky was purchased online in July 2018 from Master of Malt for £53.76 / USD 70 / INR 5,080 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Original Group’s North Star Discovery:

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

North Star Discovery – Islay 8 year 58.3%

Last in our North Star trio was a whisky from its 2nd series simply named “Islay”. We sampled it blind and were floored by the reveal with an introduction to a new independent bottler who certainly seems to be bringing quality and value to his selections.

Islay 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles

  • Nose – A sour peat… dare I say it… almost headache inducing? Certainly highly medicinal. Which then slipped into ham, pineapple, mellow with a very different character than how it began, lemon tart, musk melon, some spice… shifted again this time into smoked sweet grass, green coffee beans, cut hay, quite vegetal, dry forrest
  • Palate – Starts exceedingly smooth then SPICE. Had a phenolic Islay style sweet peat not the palate with smoked pepper ham, with more fruits like grilled pineapple and apricot
  • Finish – Sweet, slightly briney and ends with something we couldn’t quite name… after going on and on and on…..
  • Water – Wow! What a difference! It really brought out the best qualities – the nose took on a peak smoke with dark chocolate and cherries, the palate augmented the sweet peat with a berry dimension and the finish then revealed beneath the salty sweet ash a light citrus sweet

As the last of our trio, we joked that perhaps the theme of the evening was spice, sweet and slow things down as each whisky took its time to fully reveal  its character.

Our talk turned to speculate the origins of this dram. For all it was sufficiently distinctively Islay to fall in that camp. But which one? We veered towards Caol Ila which, though not actually stated by the bottler, may very well be the case.

The extra fruitiness that emerged behind the peat made sense once I learned the whisky was finished in a pair of ex-sherry octave casks.

And what about the official tasting notes?

  • Nose: Medicinal, peat smoke & dark chocolate
  • Palate: Sweet peat, delicate sherry notes
  • Finish: Subtle ash, citrus & peppery peat smoke

Interestingly our findings were most aligned with the official tasting notes with water. And certainly we would highly recommend adding some generous drops to bring out the best in this whisky.

What were we fortunate to sample in our introductory North Star Trilogy?

Before it sold out, you could find it through Master of Malt for approximately £75.

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North Star Discovery – Ardmore Peat 8 year 58.7%

Next up in our North Star Discovery was another from their inaugural series… this time from Ardmore. We’ve not come across much Ardmore in our whisky explorations – my only brush has been a speed sniff and swish of the Ardmore 1997 45% (G&MP)  at Whisky Live Singapore at the Gordon & MacPhail booth.

Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 58.7% 1 of 198 bottles

  • Nose – PEAT, oily, sulfer, soapy, capsules… like walking into a doctor’s or chemist shop, iodine, steam engine, musty… then started to shift character revealing waves and waves of cinnamon, plums, mosambi juice, dark juicy fruits, black cherry, cinnamon apple juice, sour cherries…. kept evolving shifting from fruits to a slightly oily soot, like sacred ash, then a bit lactic, old flowers like malas after a day or so… then dark chocolate… and yet another element revealing such a delicious BBQ honey bacon, lots of smoked meats, light tar… followed by coffee, creamy yoghurt… an absolutely unbelievable nose
  • Palate – Sweet roaring spice, lots of sweet peat, stewed chewy fruits, then sweet meats and BBQ. Has good body, lots of character, oodles of spice yet still beautifully balanced between all the elements.
  • Finish – Chocolate cinnamon with a slight orange zest with a “hold” that really stays… dry
  • Water – Brilliant with! Becomes so sweet, lovely honey bacon with a mandarin perfume twist on the nose, silky smooth with a lovely rolling cinnamon sweet on the palate and fantastic finish.

We began to speculate, while it clearly had peat, we thought it wasn’t an obvious Islay dram, yet still likely Scottish. It has a gentle peat quality, pronounced, firmly there but with a subtle hand.

Thinking about the cask, we wondered about french oak? Something that gives a good kick like the way the virgin oak does for Spice Tree.

Again we guessed cask strength and absolutely loved the way water gave it even more “something.”

One remarked that it was a bit “naughty” in the nicest possible way…

Could any of us pick out that it was Ardmore! Not a chance… and that too from a new independent bottler? Impossible.

Which made the reveal all the more enjoyable.

And what about the official tasting notes?

  • Nose: Delicate peat, smoked meats & iodine
  • Palate: Sweet fruit juices & smoke from a BBQ
  • Finish: A great balance of savoury, smoke & chocolate orange

What were we fortunate to sample in our introductory North Star Trilogy?

Unfortunately North Star bottles fly off the online “shelves” quickly!

You can also find even more Whisky bits ‘n bobs on:

North Star Discovery – Glenrothes 20 year 54.6%

This was an evening of discovery… starting with tasting completely blind a mystery malt… which turned out to be a 20 year Glenrothes from North Star’s Cask Series 001…

Glenrothes 20 year (Oct 1996/Oct 2016) 54.6% 1 of 198 bottles, Refill sherry

  • Colour – Yellow gold
  • Nose – Light varnish, heavy honey, citrus lemon, then marmalade, apricot, like breakfast cereal, sense of being very “full”, dry fruits, creme rum and raisin, sense of high alcohol, creamy toffee, chocolate chips, shifting into a curl of tobacco, black ‘bara’ elichi.  After time it shifted into molasses and powdered icing sugar with sweet spices
  • Palate – An explosion of flavour. Salty caramel, completely matches the nose with force… sharp then diffuses into fruity deliciousness. The 2nd sip was much spicier with a creamy quality. And the 3rd revealed tobacco, tannic and dry… then shifted into a sweet perfume palate. Simply “yum!”
  • Finish – Bitter with a ‘khatta‘ sourness like tart apples, initially seemed short, then we realized it is quite the opposite – a lovely long finish with hazelnut pepper and red fruits
  • Water – Kicked up the spice – particularly on the finish, changed and holds. Normally we find water can initially notch up the spice, then mellows. In this case, it remains – lots of peppers, really holds its own with water, reveals a lovely mocha coffee

We joked that it “Tastes delicious on the nose!” like walking into a cookie store! It really teases, from sweetness to bitter with a beautiful balance. Another thought it would make a great “cigar” malt….

We speculated it must have a high alcohol content – likely cask strength, definitely  Scottish, well constructed though we thought perhaps it may not be very old – perhaps 8 – 12 years? We really appreciated its fabulously long finish.

We also observed it had a terrific synch between its aromas and palate – both delicious and mirroring their notes.

The reveal was such a surprise. None of us would have guessed it could be 20 years. Some remarked their mixed experience with Glenrothes, finding it sometimes over-priced for what it delivers.

In this case, it was a fabulous dram.

And what about the official tasting notes?

  • Nose: Ginger biscuits, cinnamon & sultanas
  • Palate: Apple pastries, pear juice & toffee
  • Finish: A dry finish with cocoa nibs & caramel

What were we fortunate to sample in our introductory North Star Trilogy?

Unfortunately North Star bottles have a tendency to fly off the online “shelves” quickly!

You can also find even more Whisky bits ‘n bobs on:

North Star Discovery – Glenrothes, Ardmore + Islay

There is something so fabulous about being truly surprised.

Which is why our original Mumbai tasting group keeps to its habit of tasting blind. Sometimes we reveal each whisky immediately after tasting, other times we wait until we have sampled all three whiskies.

In this case, it was after tasting all three drams and what a reveal! Why?

As it introduced North Star Spirits, a new independent bottler based in Glasgow. Starting in just 2016, we understand it is a “one man” operation by Iain Croucher, earlier part of A.D. Ratraay group.

Interestingly, he has a distribution relationship in Germany with Sansibar – which is another independent bottler that caught my attention recently for its ability to spot good casks for relatively reasonable rates.

My photos do not do justice to their packaging which is eye catching and filled with details about the cask type and inventive tasting notes too!

What did we sample?

All are cask strength, from a single cask, with natural colour and no chill filtration.

As North Star bottles have already captivated attention, we understand it is best to pre-order online as they seem to be snapped up quickly!

I’m now on the hunt to find more North Star whiskies to share with our other whisky tasting groups in Mumbai.

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